Love au Zen
Director Derek Chiu has risen quickly in the ranks
of Hong Kong directors with his critically praised Sealed with a Kiss (1999)
and Comeuppance (2000), but his recent film, Love au Zen (2001), mildly
disappoints in comparison. While both of his previous films had a lyrical
element to them, they also had an edge that created an emotional impact.
Love au Zen is lyrical with moments of charm but it has no edge to it at
all, no emotional resonance and in the end one feels very little for the
characters or for the outcome of the film.
As one might expect from a screenplay that
is based on a play from the same author, Raymond To, it is quite literate
and at times fairly wordy but it rarely grabbed my attention. Part of
this might be blamed on the actors who never really inhabit their characters
with any energy or depth. Though the four main characters are on screen
for much of the film, I never get any sense of who they are beyond what
we see and hear they are simply the creations of their dialogue and little
seems to come from within.
The film is interesting in the manner that it
contemplates the conflict between love and a state of inner harmony. In
a sense, Chiu almost concludes that the two are very much at odds with
one another. Into his scenario he introduces two couples that he uses to
explore these issues. One couple is Andrew Lin and Annie Wu who seem to
have nothing really in common but are following in a shallow manner society's
expectations of marriage. The other couple is Poon Chan Leung and Flora
Chan a more cerebral pair who after five years of being together are
beginning to question where their relationship is going if anywhere.
A few days prior to Lin and Wu getting married,
Poon, the best man, disappears leaving his girlfriend, Flora, at her wits
end. It turns out that he has temporarily joined a Buddhist monastery on
Lantau Island in order to get a better understanding of who he is and where
he wants to go in his life and whether this includes Flora. He makes
it to the wedding though but Andrew hesitates for five seconds before
his I do and this causes the spoiled and temperamental Annie to call
the whole thing off. In an amusing follow-up, the two fathers stand up
and tell Andrew that he should rejoice that he will not have to live with
a shrew as they have done!
Poon convinces Andrew to return with him to the
monastery to receive guidance from his Master, Ko Hon Man, an old classmate
who has turned to a life of abstinence. The performance from Ko is the
best thing about the film and he often reminded me of a young smiling Wu
Ma. Soon the two women also find themselves enrolling at the monastery
for reflection as well and the two couples slowly try and work out their
issues and come to some better understanding of what they need and want
from life though the resolutions are not necessarily what one might expect.
It is difficult to understand why this film left
so little impression on me. The production values are excellent, the story
has a different feel to it than most Hong Kong films, the locales are lovely,
the script is clever at times but I simply never found the foursome all
that engaging as they blandly go about their lives.
My rating for this film: 5.5
Distributed by Universe
The transfer is excellent.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks.
The subtitles are Chinese or English.
Star Files - Andrew Lin, Annie Wu and Clifton
There is a trailer for this film, but none
for any others.
There is a 10-minute making of section with